BRUSSELS (AFP) — The U.S. said Monday that Europeans should reconsider their ban on so-called chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef imports, as efforts heat up to clinch a swift trade deal with Washington.
This will ring alarm bells in Europe, where fears of U.S. food safety standards being pushed on consumers triggered mass protests in 2015, most notably in Germany, Austria and France.
The request follows last week's threat by U.S. President Donald Trump to hit Europe with crippling import duties on cars unless the EU budged in trade talks that have stalled on agriculture.
Trump "is very fond of his farmers," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters after meeting EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan in Brussels.
The old row involves the method of making chicken fit for human consumption, with Europeans barring imports of poultry products treated with chlorine dioxide.
Perdue said giving ground on this issue was one example of how Europe could redress a U.S. deficit on farming goods that he said is between $10 and $12 billion.
Lamenting the "denigration" of U.S. poultry production, Perdue insisted that fixing the problem was "certainly" a way to shrink the trade deficit and meet the targets of the EU-U.S. trade deal.
Perdue also insisted that U.S. chickens were not in fact cleaned with chlorine, calling this a "fallacy."
"You know what it is? It's vinegar, essentially, and to say that that's unsafe or not to be used, we don't think can found to be the basis of sound science," he said.
The White House cabinet member also raised Europe's attitude to hormone-treated beef as a possible item for review in a transatlantic trade deal, insisting that the stated food safety dangers were unproven by science.
Perdue said he understood the "difficulties" for EU leaders to overcome domestic opposition to U.S. food production methods.
"There is a challenge... They need to communicate that we need to make decisions based on sound science and food safety, as well as affordability," he said.
Reached by AFP, the EU had no immediate comment on the specific demands on chicken and beef.
EU spokesman Daniel Rosario earlier said the renewed talks were an "ongoing process" with hopes of a meeting soon between Trump and European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen in Washington.
The U.S. and EU first agreed to pursue a minimal trade deal in July 2018 as a tentative truce after Trump had declared a war on America's yawning trade deficits with the likes of China and Europe.
Speaking in Davos last week, Hogan noted to reporters that there was a strong lobby within Trump's Republican Party in Congress for agriculture to be included in trade talks.
"And... if they wish to break the impasse on agriculture, we are prepared to look under the heading of regulatory cooperation, the non-tariff barriers," he added.
© Agence France-Presse
by Alex PIGMAN